Kirkus Reviews QR Code
HUNGER POINT by Jillian Medoff


by Jillian Medoff

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-06-039189-8

 At once heartbreaking and funny, a debut novel on death and renewal that is strong and honest. Frannie, at 26, has a college degree, a waitressing job, and her childhood room back at her parents' house. She tells in earthy, sharp-tongued prose the story of her Long Island family, a nice middle-class clan of ordinary neurotics: Dad obsesses over the preparation of gourmet meals and keeps his mouth shut; Mom Marsha pops Valium and compulsively diets while conducting an illicit affair; and little sister Shelly, seemingly serene and perfect, gets thinner and thinner as the days go by. Not offering some melodramatic, superficial textbook-like tale on the ravages of anorexia, Medoff (who herself had a long-term eating disorder) creates instead a startling story exploring the symptoms of the disease and the crushing effects it has on a family, offering as well a powerful examination of the politics of food, women, and self-image in American culture. When Shelly checks herself into a hospital, Frannie realizes that her own behavior, self-destructive through alternative means (sleeping with a series of ``Rat Boys,'' for instance), is not so different from her sister's desire to erase herself. Life utterly stops, though, when Shelly commits suicide. Things break apart: Frannie's parents split, her best friend Abby drops her, and Frannie herself sinks into a dangerous, masochistic depression. Medoff displays an unwavering honesty in capturing the silent fears, thoughts, and secret confidences of women, and a real talent for making those truths not morosely tragic but simply human and funny. Frannie slowly climbs out of her depression to find a job, a boyfriend, and a little self-esteem, but more importantly comes to terms with her sister's death and the permanent void it creates. Despite the subject matter, an exuberant meditation on life, family, and the hard-won satisfactions of personal change. ($40,000 ad/promo)